Meet "The Beatles"

The Beatles: Rock Band Ludwig drum controllerWhen it was announced that Cirque de Soleil was going to do a performance based on the music of The Beatles—modified, remixed versions of the actual songs—there was a considerable bit of consternation among the Beatles’ purists, those who know, inside and out, the definitive versions, know them chapter and verse, and who have not inconsiderable knowledge of the variants (demo versions, live performances, etc.). That Sir George Martin was to be the man sitting at the mixing board (ably assisted by son Giles, which leads you to think that they’ve made something of a cottage industry from the band, assuming, of course, that by “cottage” you mean “castle”) served to mollify them, somewhat. But still. . .These are THE BEATLES! for fucksake. You just don’t go willy-nilly screwing around with works of three-minute acts of genius.

Funny thing: the notion of a Beatles cover band doesn’t seem to provoke the same sort of bile, or at least not the same quantities. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that whereas those cover performers tend to get to play in community theatre auditoriums or bars (where middle-aged men desperately try to pick up pre-middle-aged women and middle-aged women try to figure out what the hell they’ve managed to do with their lives while drinking sticky-sweet concoctions that will leave them bilious in the morning—and it has nothing to do with the music), Cirque de Soleil is performing Love in The Mirage casino in Las Vegas, a venue more suitable for Elvis, not the Fab Four, the preponderance of people wandering the aisles among the slots stuffed into tour T-shirts notwithstanding. Performing The Beatles music in a venue that used to house Siegfried and Roy and a bunch of wild animals. If that doesn’t border on some sort of sacrilege, what would?

But soon, there will be Rock Band version of The Beatles. Little animations. Almost like the cartoon show, but more. . .authentic. A Martin (Giles; pere has retired) mixing of the music. Support from all of the existing Beatles and relations (Ringo, Paul, and the Harrison and Lennon brides). The possibility for all of those fan boys (one suspects that girls have always been a bit more compartmentalized in this regard, endless Ed Sullivan screaming notwithstanding) to achieve greater fulfillment by playing along with the boys. Great fun, clearly.

Barbershop Quartet

Here are the questions: Is this predicated on appreciation for or fascination with the music or something else? When music becomes game, is it the music that is appreciated, or is the music essentially nothing more than a soundtrack? Do the fake instruments provide a more through feeling of faking it than air guitar and drumsticks on any available flat surface?

The Beatles have been captured in almost every conceivable form, from dishes to lunchboxes, from figurines to trading cards, from. . . . Are “The Beatles” the band that created so much memorable and commendable music, or are “The Beatles” an entity that carries a ®?

There will never be a bigger band than The Beatles. But there will be a bigger entity than “The Beatles,” that which has been captured, crafted, co-opted in so many variants. But that band will be a “band,” a virtual entity that is digitally developed taking into account the predilections of neurotransmitters, acts of volition notwithstanding.

Idoru, anyone?

The Beatles: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki.

9 thoughts on “Meet "The Beatles"”

  1. “Are “The Beatles” the band that created so much memorable and commendable music, or are “The Beatles” an entity that carries a ®?” Can’t they be both?

    As for “Rock Band”: I like to hit things with sticks in a socially-acceptable manner. I have fun doing it to bands that I don’t even like, such as Coheed and Cambria. It’s that much fun. It’s even better when I like the songs, and I love the Beatles more than any other band. I don’t think playing virtual “instruments” are better or worse than air guitar or singing loudly in your car, but it’s a similar yet different kind of fun. You can enjoy the game as a game, and if you happen to like the music a lot you can also appreciate the music. I don’t think the game aspect of it detracts from the enjoyment of the music. If anything I’ve found the opposite to be true; I have non-musician friends who have said, “I’ve never noticed bass lines before until I started playing Rockband”. Or “I never realized how fucked up Julian Casablancas sings until I tried to sing along with him”. You know, different ways to hear it.

    Either I get to pretend to be Ringo or I go back to beating women with sticks, and so far that hasn’t paid off like I thought it would.

  2. It would seem that anything Beatle related transcends logic and traditional models. How else to explain their almost un waiving popularity across all age groups almost 40 years after they broke.

    Why waste time trying to figure it out? Anyone lucky enough to be around and enjoy their music in any form should just be grateful for this cosmic gift from whatever deity you dig.

    We will not see their likes again.

  3. It’s a wonderful thing, to be sure–but not everything Beatles transcends. Indeed we are theologians–if so, then the film Across the Universe was nothing short of blasphemy.

  4. To clarify, I was not suggesting that Beatles = God, but rather that music is our religion.

    And we’re the types of believers who — in addition to worship and community — enjoy the scholarship of the literary, historical, political, cultural, and sociological context of our faith.

  5. Well Jake, one does what one must do. Personally, I don’t need the recipe in order to enjoy the meal.

    But hey, if you get it all figured out, hurry up and publish the results, the music industry needs all the help it can get.

  6. It’s not about the destination, Luke. It’s the journey.

    Besides, I think you agree with us; otherwise, why would you “waste time” reading about/discussing the subject? It’s part of the fun of fandom to try to figure out where it all came from and where it’s all headed.

    And back to your analogy, you don’t need the recipe, but isn’t it interesting to know the culinary history of certain ingredients (where they came from, what other dishes they’re used in, etc.) and to understand how the different flavors enhance each other? Food is a lot like music in that the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts. You may never be able to recreate your favorite dish by a great chef, but it sure is fun watching them whip shit together on the Food Network.

  7. And what band beyond The Beatles could spark a transubstantiation/consubstantiation debate? Or would that be “The Beatles”. . .?

  8. I’m not a video gamer but as long as they don’t have Ringo singing along to some goddamn Bon Jovi song–like they did to the likeness of Kurt Cobain–I could care less. There’s been plenty of over-merchandising of the Fabs for me to even consider any negative implications at this point. (Which makes me think this is the part of The Beatles’ influence that Gene Simmons digested best.) And yeah, I’m a Beatlemaniac but Vegas is a bit much for me.

    Sometimes it’s about the journey, sometimes it’s about the destination. And often, it’s both. I want to enjoy the tunes and also learn what Rickenbacker or Gretsch was used on a particular track. Most people just want to groove to the song. I know folks who read the liner notes and want to know who wrote what; and others who can’t name 2 members of their fave band. It’s all good as long as more people get into the music and support it somehow.

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